July 7, 2022

Manipulated by Machines

CyberGunk 04


Membership content


Key Research

The Century of the Self

Specifically part 1 here has large chunks lifted and (hopefully) flipped. I never actually watched it back or used it as reference because I didn’t want to directly copy anything, but I know that this is where half the story comes from.

Papers from Tuğrulcan Elmas, Rebekah Overdorf

The most sensible, specific research I’ve seen into social media manipulation.

New Directions in Public Relations and Communication Research Series

General basic PR stuff. The above-board shit that you learn at uni. Pretty fucked. Good to get to grips with.

Research List

Filtered to Astroturfing View all
Title URL Notes Video Relevance
πŸ“°Article Ad Tech Could Be the Next Internet Bubble https://www.wired.com/story/ad-tech-could-be-the-next-internet-bubble/ Targeted advertising doesn’t work Advertising β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Buying Consumer Data? Tread Carefully. https://hbr.org/2020/05/buying-consumer-data-tread-carefully Consumer data is innaccurate Advertising β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Coors Light Can’t Beam Ads Into Your Brain https://gizmodo.com/no-brands-cant-target-ads-at-your-dreams-1847113888?rev=1623886445493 This story that keeps cropping up about ads in your dreams is so fucking dumb Advertising β˜…
πŸ“°Article Deconstructing the Disinformation War https://mediawell.ssrc.org/expert-reflections/deconstructing-the-disinformation-war/ Exaggerated narratives Advertising β˜…
πŸ“°Article Digital Marketing’s Last Decade Is Digital Marketing’s Lost Decade https://www.forbes.com/sites/augustinefou/2021/05/16/digital-marketings-lost-decadetime-to-think-different-do-different/ Programmatic advertising is a waste Advertising β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article How AWS and Other Cloud Providers Became the Internet’s Most Powerful Moderators https://onezero.medium.com/how-aws-and-other-cloud-providers-became-the-internets-most-powerful-moderators-9b23a954d68a Amazon is behind the internet Advertising β˜…
πŸ“°Article How to Start Fixing Social Media. https://onezero.medium.com/how-to-start-fixing-social-media-196297eb6b71 What social media could be Advertising β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article ICO’s final report into Cambridge Analytica invites regulatory questions https://www.ft.com/content/43962679-b1f9-4818-b569-b028a58c8cd2 CA didn’t do anything Advertising β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“•Book In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works & Shapes Our Lives https://www.worldcat.org/title/in-the-plex-how-google-thinks-works-shapes-our-lives/oclc/1244174326&referer=brief_results Background on Google/AdWords Advertising β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Is Using a Data Broker the Most Secure Marketing Strategy? https://www.cmswire.com/digital-marketing/is-your-data-broker-the-most-secure-marketing-strategy/ Data brokers worse than random chance Advertising β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Labour HQ used Facebook ads to deceive Jeremy Corbyn during election campaign https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/labour-hq-used-facebook-ads-to-deceive-jeremy-corbyn-during-election-campaign-grlx75c27 A use case for targeted advertising Advertising β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Large Publishers Buy Incentivized Traffic & Popups Too https://deepsee.io/blog/large-publishers-buy-incentivized-traffic-too On incentivised traffic Advertising β˜…
πŸ“°Article New Zealand’s Stuff newspaper group joins Facebook boycott as ‘experiment’ https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jul/06/new-zealands-stuff-newspaper-group-joins-facebook-boycott-as-experiment Facebook boycott Advertising β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article News site Stuff left Facebook. Seven months later, traffic is just fine and trust is higher https://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/news/news-site-stuff-left-facebook-seven-months-later-traffic-just-fine-and-trust-higher Programmatic advertising doesn’t do anything Advertising β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“•Book Subprime Attention Crisis: Advertising and the Time Bomb at the Heart of the Internet https://www.worldcat.org/title/subprime-attention-crisis-advertising-and-the-time-bomb-at-the-heart-of-the-internet/oclc/1225234235&referer=brief_results Programatic advertising doesn’t work/some fun GFC analogies Advertising β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article The Big Lie Behind the β€œPivot to Video” https://slate.com/technology/2018/10/facebook-online-video-pivot-metrics-false.html On the Pivot to video Advertising β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article The downfall of adtech means the trust economy is here https://techcrunch.com/2020/11/23/the-downfall-of-ad-tech-means-the-trust-economy-is-here/ No-one likes targeted advertising Advertising β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article The Internet That Was (and Still Could Be) https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/06/medium-is-the-message-paradise-paved-internet-architecture/396227/ Internet without perverse incentives Advertising β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article The Madness of the Crowd https://logicmag.io/intelligence/the-madness-of-the-crowd/ Systems don’t work for people Advertising β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article The Web We Lost http://anildash.com/2012/12/13/the_web_we_lost/ Social networks are partly a step backwards Advertising β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Unredacted Antitrust Complaint Unsealed: Google Internal Documents Show AMP Pages Brought 40% Less Revenue to Publishers https://wptavern.com/unredacted-antitrust-complaint-unsealed-google-internal-documents-show-amp-pages-brought-40-less-revenue-to-publishers Google pushed amp. It only makes things worse Advertising β˜…
πŸ“•Book What Tech Calls Thinking: An Inquiry Into the Intellectual Bedrock of Silicon Valley https://www.worldcat.org/title/what-tech-calls-thinking-an-inquiry-into-the-intellectual-bedrock-of-silicon-valley/oclc/1136959585&referer=brief_results Misc ramblings Advertising β˜…
πŸ“°Article When Big Brands Stopped Spending On Digital Ads, Nothing Happened. Why? https://www.forbes.com/sites/augustinefou/2021/01/02/when-big-brands-stopped-spending-on-digital-ads-nothing-happened-why/ Huge companys didn’t suffer for turning off programatic ads Advertising β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“ƒPaper Why Do People Avoid Advertising On The Internet? https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00913367.2004.10639175 Banner blindness and inneffectual online advertising Advertising β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article AI is wrestling with a replication crisis https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/11/12/1011944/artificial-intelligence-replication-crisis-science-big-tech-google-deepmind-facebook-openai/ Replication crisis in AI Algorithms β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article AI: Still Just Curve Fitting, Not Finding a Theory of Everything https://mindmatters.ai/2020/12/ai-still-just-curve-fitting-not-finding-a-theory-of-everything/ AI hasn’t moved beyond curve fitting Algorithms β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“ΊVideo Andrej Karpathy – AI for Full-Self Driving at Tesla https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hx7BXih7zx8 So much manual work to do Algorithms β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“ΊVideo Andrej Karpathy: Tesla Autopilot and Multi-Task Learning for Perception and Prediction https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHH47nZ7FZU Talking through self-driving Algorithms β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Artificial Intelligence Isn’t an Arms Race With China, and the United States Shouldn’t Treat It Like One https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/12/11/artificial-intelligence-ai-not-arms-race-china-united-states/ AI hype and narrative Algorithms β˜…β˜…
πŸ“ΊVideo Building the Software 2.0 Stack (Andrej Karpathy) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y57wwucbXR8 Vast majority still 1.0 code Algorithms β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Cars in driver-assist mode hit a third of cyclists, all oncoming cars in tests https://www.theregister.com/2022/05/16/automous_car_ada_system_tests/?s=09 Self-driving tests Algorithms β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Deep Learning’s Carbon Emissions Problem https://www.forbes.com/sites/robtoews/2020/06/17/deep-learnings-climate-change-problem/ Ecological cost of Machine Learning Algorithms β˜…
πŸ“°Article Elon Musk Describes the Future of Self-Driving Cars https://gizmodo.com/elon-musk-describes-the-future-of-self-driving-cars-1692076449 Stupid bullshit 2015 Algorithms β˜…
πŸ“ƒPaper Energy And Policy Considerations For Modern Deep Learning Research https://ojs.aaai.org/index.php/AAAI/article/view/7123 The material costs of deep learning Algorithms β˜…
πŸ“°Article Fear itself is the real threat to democracy, not tall tales of Chinese AI https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/mar/06/fear-itself-is-the-real-threat-to-democracy-not-tall-tales-of-chinese-ai AI doomerism is nonsense Algorithms β˜…
πŸ“°Article Here’s Proof Tesla’s FSD Beta 9.0 Street Testing Is a Calamity Waiting to Happen https://www.autoevolution.com/news/here-s-proof-tesla-s-fsd-beta-90-street-testing-is-a-calamity-waiting-to-happen-165597.html General Tesla hate Algorithms β˜…
πŸ“ƒPaper Hierarchical Text-Conditional Image Generation With Clip Latents https://arxiv.org/abs/2204.06125 Dall-e 2 release paper Algorithms β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article How Tesla Is Bad For The Earth. An electric car is still a car, and… https://indi.ca/how-tesla-is-bad-for-the-earth-31e644540a26 Green growth is the opposite of what’s needed Algorithms β˜…
πŸ“°Article Is California’s electric car revolution bad for the planet? https://www.latimes.com/politics/0000017a-c69a-da5f-affa-dfbbb1050001-123 Electric vehicles aren’t the answer Algorithms β˜…
πŸ“°Article It’s disturbingly easy to trick AI into doing something deadly https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2019/4/8/18297410/ai-tesla-self-driving-cars-adversarial-machine-learning Adversarial attacks Algorithms β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“ƒPaper Jukebox: A Generative Model For Music https://arxiv.org/abs/2005.00341 JukeBox release paper Algorithms β˜…β˜…
πŸ“ƒPaper Language Models Are Few-Shot Learners https://arxiv.org/abs/2005.14165 GPT-3 release paper Algorithms β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Lines of Sight https://logicmag.io/commons/lines-of-sight/ Run-down of self-driving tech Algorithms β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“ƒPaper MIT Advanced Vehicle Technology Study: Large-Scale Naturalistic Driving Study of Driver Behavior and Interaction with Automation https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/8751968/ Full self driving is a ways off Algorithms β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Notes on the Turing Test https://yeetgenstein.substack.com/p/notes-on-the-turing-test Deep learning sucess vs full intelligence Algorithms β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“ΊVideo PyTorch at Tesla – Andrej Karpathy, Tesla https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBklltKXtDE Talking through self-driving Algorithms β˜…β˜…
πŸ“ƒPaper Release Strategies And The Social Impacts Of Language Models https://arxiv.org/abs/1908.09203 GPT-2 release paper Algorithms β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article The Double Exploitation of Deepfake Porn https://thewalrus.ca/the-double-exploitation-of-deepfake-porn/ Everyones freaking out about politics when its really only good for porn Algorithms β˜…
πŸ“ΊVideo The Lighthill Debate (1973) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yReDbeY7ZMU Beginning of the first major AI winter Algorithms β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Waymo is dropping the term β€˜self-driving,’ but not everyone in the industry is on board https://techcrunch.com/2021/01/07/waymo-is-dropping-the-term-self-driving-but-not-everyone-in-the-industry-is-on-board/ It’s not “self-driving” Algorithms β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article What Full Autonomy Means for the Waymo Driver https://spectrum.ieee.org/full-autonomy-waymo-driver Current Waymo tech Algorithms β˜…
πŸ“°Article Why deep learning won’t give us level 5 self-driving cars https://bdtechtalks.com/2020/07/29/self-driving-tesla-car-deep-learning/ Title Algorithms β˜…β˜…
πŸ“ƒPaper Zero-Shot Text-To-Image Generation https://arxiv.org/abs/2102.12092 Dall-e release paper Algorithms β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Amazon Recruited Twitter Army to Defend Company and CEO Jeff Bezos, Leaked Document Reveals https://www.ign.com/articles/amazon-twitter-army-defend-company-ceo-jeff-bezos-leaked-document-reveals Amazon’s in-house astroturfing campaign Astroturfing β˜…β˜…
πŸ“ƒPaper An Examination of the Impact of Astroturfing on Nationalism: A Persuasion Knowledge Perspective https://www.mdpi.com/402650 Actual research into astroturfing Astroturfing β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Bird Box challenge: How Netflix made a few tweets into a global trend https://inews.co.uk/news/bird-box-challenge-netflix-twitter-warning-explained-241879 Faked “Bird Box Challenge” Astroturfing β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Bird Box: How Netflix Harnesses It’s Memeing-ful Relationship with Fans | Research World https://www.researchworld.com/bird-box-how-netflix-harnesses-its-memeing-ful-relationship-with-fans/ Bird Box campaign overview Astroturfing β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“ƒPaper Characterizing Retweet Bots: The Case of Black Market Accounts https://arxiv.org/abs/2112.02366 “Bot checkers” don’t catch retweet bots Astroturfing β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Data Against Democracy https://logicmag.io/failure/data-against-democracy/ Platforms warping politics Astroturfing β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Elon Musk’s not-so-secret weapon: An army of Twitter bots touting Tesla https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/technology/elon-musk-s-not-so-secret-weapon-an-army-of-twitter-bots-touting-tesla/ Tesla astroturfing Astroturfing β˜…β˜…
πŸ“ƒPaper Ephemeral Astroturfing Attacks: The Case of Fake Twitter Trends https://arxiv.org/abs/1910.07783 How to fake a twitter trend Astroturfing β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Facebook Campaign Nets Big Returns For ‘Bird Box’ https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/330557/facebook-campaign-nets-big-returns-for-bird-box.html No trace of official Twitter Bird Box ad spend beyond hashflag Astroturfing β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“ƒPaper Group topic-author model for efficient discovery of latent social astroturfing groups in tourism domain https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s42400-019-0029-8 Actual research into astroturfing Astroturfing β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article How Custom Emojis Crowned Twitter the Hashtag Registrar https://medium.com/@justinogarrity/how-custom-emojis-crowned-twitter-the-hashtag-registrar-43e5fa60c557 History of hashflags Astroturfing β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Lil Nas X Was A Popular Twitter User Before β€˜Old Town Road’ https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/04/lil-nas-x-was-a-popular-twitter-user-before-old-town-road.html Lil Nas X, the tweetdecker Astroturfing β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“ƒPaper Misleading Repurposing on Twitter https://arxiv.org/abs/2010.10600 Sockpuppets start as real accounts Astroturfing β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Netflix apologizes for using actors to meet press at Canadian launch https://www.theglobeandmail.com/technology/netflix-apologizes-for-using-actors-to-meet-press-at-canadian-launch/article4326706/ Netflix doing good old irl astroturfing Astroturfing β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Netflix denies spreading β€˜Bird Box’ memes with Twitter bots https://www.dailydot.com/unclick/bird-box-memes-fake-netflix/ Bird Box wasn’t astroturfed, but why are all these links dead Astroturfing β˜…β˜…
πŸ“ƒPaper Political Astroturfing on Twitter: How to Coordinate a Disinformation Campaign https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10584609.2019.1661888 Actual research into astroturfing Astroturfing β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Power of Suggestion https://www.chronicle.com/article/power-of-suggestion/ Many priming studies can’t be replicated Astroturfing β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“•Book Public Relations and Participatory Culture: Fandom, social media and community engagement https://www.worldcat.org/title/public-relations-and-participatory-culture-fandom-social-media-and-community-engagement/oclc/1127300821&referer=brief_results PR and fandoms Astroturfing β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“•Book Social Media and Public Relations: Fake friends and powerful publics https://www.worldcat.org/title/social-media-and-public-relations-fake-friends-and-powerful-publics/oclc/1089492876&referer=brief_results General new media PR textbook Astroturfing β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“•Book Strategic Communication, Social Media and Democracy: The Challenge of the Digital Naturals https://www.worldcat.org/title/strategic-communication-social-media-and-democracy-the-challenge-of-the-digital-naturals/oclc/1064560421&referer=brief_results General new media PR textbook Astroturfing β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Survive Reddit And Make An Impact https://wearesocial.com/uk/blog/2019/10/survive-reddit-and-make-an-impact/ How to infiltrate Reddit Astroturfing β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article The Bird Box Effect: How Memes Drive Users to Netflix https://www.theringer.com/movies/2019/1/3/18167278/bird-box-memes-netflix-bots-marketing Bird Box wasn’t astroturfed, but whats all this bot activity Astroturfing β˜…β˜…
πŸ“ƒPaper The disconcerting potential of online disinformation: Persuasive effects of astroturfing comments and three strategies for inoculation against them https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1461444820908530 Actual research into astroturfing Astroturfing β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article The lesson of the dust-up over Trump’s fake Twitter followers. https://slate.com/technology/2017/06/the-lesson-of-the-dust-up-over-trumps-fake-twitter-followers.html We only have conjecture but there is manipulation happening Astroturfing β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article The Stans Who Post So Much, Twitter Thinks They’re Bots β€” And Shuts Them Down https://melmagazine.com/en-us/story/the-stans-who-post-so-much-twitter-thinks-theyre-bots-and-shuts-them-down Stans and “harmless bots, including ones that promoted Netflix shows” Astroturfing β˜…
πŸ“ƒPaper There’s Nothing Social About Social Priming: Derailing The β€œTrain Wreck” https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1047840X.2021.1889312 On “priming” post replication crisis Astroturfing β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“ƒPaper Thinking Taxonomically about Fake Accounts: Classification, False Dichotomies, and the Need for Nuance https://arxiv.org/abs/2006.04959 “Bots” encompasses so much Astroturfing β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article TikTok β€œDeeply Concerned” by Facebook’s Paid Campaign to Promote Negative Coverage of Social App https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/business/digital/tiktok-facebook-meta-targeted-victory-1235122641/ Facebook shady anti-competitive campaign Astroturfing β˜…
πŸ“°Article Weekly Nielsen Streaming Charts – Archive https://www.spoilertv.com/2020/11/weekly-nielsen-streaming-charts-updated.html Viewership numbers Astroturfing β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Who Really Writes Twitter’s ‘Trending’ Summaries https://onezero.medium.com/who-really-writes-twitters-trending-summaries-89e819255599 On the new team behind the twitter trends Astroturfing β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Automaton https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automaton Automatons! Automation β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Doctors turn to imperfect AI to spend more quality time with patients https://www.protocol.com/enterprise/doctor-burnout-ai-patient-risk AI causing medical harm Automation β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article From Manchester to Barcelona https://logicmag.io/nature/from-manchester-to-barcelona/ Techlash ignores capital Automation β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“•Book Greek and Roman Technology: A Sourcebook: Annotated Translations of Greek and Latin Texts and Documents https://www.worldcat.org/title/greek-and-roman-technology-a-sourcebook-annotated-translations-of-greek-and-latin-texts-and-documents/oclc/1243344417&referer=brief_results Ancient technophobia Automation β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Hundreds of AI tools have been built to catch covid. None of them helped. https://www.technologyreview.com/2021/07/30/1030329/machine-learning-ai-failed-covid-hospital-diagnosis-pandemic/ AI didn’t help with COVID Automation β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Maelzel’s Chess Player https://www.eapoe.org/works/essays/maelzel.htm Edgar Allen Poe grappling with the Mechanical Turk Automation β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit https://thebaffler.com/salvos/of-flying-cars-and-the-declining-rate-of-profit Technological change has stalled Automation β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Once billed as a revolution in medicine, IBM’s Watson Health is sold off in parts https://www.statnews.com/2022/01/21/ibm-watson-health-sale-equity/ AI failure Automation β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Robots: what do they mean for jobs and incomes? https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2018/02/26/robots-what-do-they-mean-for-jobs-and-incomes/ Economic argument against automation discourse Automation β˜…β˜…
πŸ“•Book Smart Machines and Service Work: Automation in an Age of Stagnation https://www.worldcat.org/title/smart-machines-and-service-work-automation-in-an-age-of-stagnation/oclc/1266189478&referer=brief_results I didn’t really enjoy this but I think I’ve entirely ripped it off Automation β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Tellers, toil and technology https://www.atmmarketplace.com/articles/tellers-technology-and-atms/ ATMs doubled the amount of bank tellers Automation β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“ΊVideo Tesla AI Day https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0z4FweCy4M Stupid Elon bullshit Automation β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article The Automation Charade https://logicmag.io/failure/the-automation-charade/ The illusion of automation Automation β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article The Mechanical Chess Player That Unsettled the World https://slate.com/human-interest/2015/08/the-turk-a-chess-playing-robot-was-a-hoax-that-started-an-early-conversation-about-ai.html On the Mechanical Turk Automation β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article The Modern World Has Finally Become Too Complex for Any of Us to Understand https://onezero.medium.com/the-modern-world-has-finally-become-too-complex-for-any-of-us-to-understand-1a0b46fbc292 Nodes in networks Automation β˜…
πŸ“°Article The Smart, the Stupid, and the Catastrophically Scary: An Interview with an Anonymous Data Scientist https://logicmag.io/intelligence/interview-with-an-anonymous-data-scientist/ AI hype vs reality Automation β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Uber’s algorithm and the mirage of the marketplace. https://slate.com/technology/2015/07/ubers-algorithm-and-the-mirage-of-the-marketplace.html Uber designed to maximise worker exploitation Automation β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Why algorithms beat experts (even in shipping) https://splash247.com/why-algorithms-beat-experts-even-in-shipping/ Math has use cases Automation β˜…
πŸ“°Article Despair Fatigue https://thebaffler.com/salvos/despair-fatigue-david-graeber Art, welfare, future Creators β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Don’t be a creator if you can’t do it for free https://marker.medium.com/if-you-cant-afford-to-do-it-for-free-don-t-be-a-creator-569488f3ef72 There’s no money in creating Creators β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Ed Sheeran’s Vinyls https://dadadrummer.substack.com/p/ed-sheerans-vinyls Big artists stifling others Creators β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article HBO Max Might Have Outsmarted the Streaming Wars https://www.wired.com/story/hbo-max-outsmart-streaming-wars/ HBO burning millions to make a dent Creators β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Hollywood is quietly using AI to help decide which movies to make https://www.theverge.com/2019/5/28/18637135/hollywood-ai-film-decision-script-analysis-data-machine-learning AI for script reading and casting and stuff Creators β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article How Can We Pay for Creativity in the Digital Age? https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/09/14/how-can-we-pay-for-creativity-in-the-digital-age Money in art Creators β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Is Spotify’s Model Wiping Out Music’s Middle Class? https://www.theringer.com/tech/2019/1/16/18184314/spotify-music-streaming-service-royalty-payout-model No money in streaming Creators β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Jobless, Selling Nudes Online and Still Struggling https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/13/business/onlyfans-pandemic-users.html Coronavirus and OnlyFans Creators β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Netflix loses subscribers for first time in 10 years. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/19/business/netflix-earnings-q1.html How could this happen Creators β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Netflix will consider buybacks as it returns to positive cash flow after 2021 https://www.cnbc.com/2021/01/19/netflix-says-cash-flow-positive-after-2021-no-more-external-financing.html Whoops Creators β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Netflix’s subscriber growth has slowed dramatically. Blame competition and the pandemic https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/business/story/2021-07-20/netflixs-subscriber-growth-has-slowed-dramatically Oh dear Creators β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article No One Makes A Living On Patreon https://theoutline.com/post/2571/no-one-makes-a-living-on-patreon No One Makes A Living On Patreon Creators β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Tears in Rain https://dadadrummer.substack.com/p/tears-in-rain Spotify fraud Creators β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article The creator economy is failing to spread the wealth https://www.axios.com/2021/10/11/creator-economy-revenue-content?utm_campaign=organic&utm_medium=socialshare&utm_source=twitter Title Creators β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article The Data Journalism That Wasn’t http://futureofmusic.org/blog/2015/08/21/data-journalism-wasnt Some weird internet beef and also a good overview of the money in streaming Creators β˜…
πŸ“°Article The Death Of Subculture part 3: The role of poverty and social class https://gravityglobal.com/news/the-death-of-subculture-part-3/ The working class has been priced out of art Creators β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“•Book The Death of the Artist https://www.worldcat.org/title/death-of-the-artist-how-creators-are-struggling-to-survive-in-the-age-of-billionaires-and-big-tech/oclc/1246727096&referer=brief_results Easier to create, harder to make money, a social issue Creators β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article The Economics of OnlyFans https://xsrus.com/the-economics-of-onlyfans Losing money from creating Creators β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article The Gig Economy is failing, enter the hustle economy https://onezero.medium.com/the-gig-economy-is-failing-say-hello-to-the-hustle-economy-13ae3aa91954 Work is increasingly atomised Creators β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article The Year Sex Work Came Home https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/10/style/camsoda-onlyfans-streaming-sex-coronavirus.html Coronavirus and OnlyFans Creators β˜…
πŸ“°Article β€˜Stan Twitter, do you know this song’ is the unifying meme we need right now https://www.polygon.com/2018/8/22/17768546/stan-twitter-do-you-remember-this-song-meme Nostalgia of stan twitter Nostalgia β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article β€œI’m Not Interested in Cinema”: Adam Curtis on Bitter Lake https://filmmakermagazine.com/93080-im-not-interested-in-cinema-adam-curtis-on-bitter-lake/ Conflating our current moment with Brezhnevian stagnation Nostalgia β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Boris Johnson: The Brezhnev Years https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/boris-johnson-the-brezhnev-years/ Conflating our current moment with Brezhnevian stagnation Nostalgia β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Chapter 1: The Politics of Kpop http://www.moonrok.com/history-k-pop-chapter-1-politics-k-pop/ The start of K-pop Nostalgia β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Chapter 10: The Downside of the Debut http://www.moonrok.com/history-k-pop-chapter-10-downside-debut/ Exploitation Nostalgia β˜…
πŸ“°Article Chapter 6: How the Internet Almost Killed Kpop, and How Idol Advertising and Acting Saved It http://www.moonrok.com/history-k-pop-chapter-6-how-internet-almost-killed-k-pop-and-how-idol-advertising-and/ K-pop and internet marketing Nostalgia β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Covid and fictitious capital https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2021/01/25/covid-and-fictitious-capital/ Markets decoupled from reality Nostalgia β˜…β˜…
πŸ“•Book Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More https://www.worldcat.org/title/everything-was-forever-until-it-was-no-more-the-last-soviet-generation/oclc/941080827&referer=brief_results Anthropological study of the mood of pre-dissolution Soviet Russia Nostalgia β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“•Book Ghosts of My Life https://www.worldcat.org/title/ghosts-of-my-life-writings-on-depression-hauntology-and-lost-futures/oclc/936416159&referer=brief_results misc hauntology ramblings Nostalgia β˜…
πŸ“°Article How K-pop became a global phenomenon https://www.vox.com/culture/2018/2/16/16915672/what-is-kpop-history-explained On K-pop production and reception Nostalgia β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Op-Ed: How the streaming wars are changing what you watch https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2021-07-18/netflix-amazon-hulu-streaming-competition-hollywood-content Streamers monopolising Nostalgia β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“•Book Protocol https://www.worldcat.org/title/protocol-how-control-exists-after-decentralization/oclc/982668932&referer=brief_results The Net exerts power Nostalgia β˜…
πŸ“•Book The Circle of the Snake: Nostalgia and Utopia in the Age of Big Tech https://www.worldcat.org/title/circle-of-the-snake-nostalgia-and-utopia-in-the-age-of-big-tech/oclc/1140683049&referer=brief_results Prediction feedback loops Nostalgia β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“•Book The End of Forgetting: Growing Up with Social Media https://www.worldcat.org/title/end-of-forgetting-growing-up-with-social-media/oclc/1109928854&referer=brief_results You can’t escape your past Nostalgia β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“•Book The End of the End of History https://www.worldcat.org/title/end-of-the-end-of-history-politics-in-the-twenty-first-century/oclc/1252422521&referer=brief_results misc end of history ramblings Nostalgia β˜…
πŸ“°Article The stock market is detached from economic reality. A reckoning is coming. https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/stock-market-unemployment-disconnect/2020/09/09/087374ca-f306-11ea-bc45-e5d48ab44b9f_story.html Markets propped up by bullshit Nostalgia β˜…
πŸ“°Article Twenty Years Ago, β€˜Harry Potter’ and β€˜Lord of the Rings’ Changed the Future of Hollywood https://www.theringer.com/movies/2021/12/17/22840267/lord-of-the-rings-harry-potter-anniversaries-fandom-ip-hollywood Post-00’s nostalgic blockbusters Nostalgia β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“ƒPaper A Review Of The Data Broker Industry: Collection, Use, And Sale Of Consumer Data For Marketing Purposes http://educationnewyork.com/files/rockefeller_databroker.pdf 2013 US Senate investigation into data brokers Surveillance β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Austerity is an Algorithm https://logicmag.io/justice/austerity-is-an-algorithm/ Australian failure to automate social services Surveillance β˜…β˜…
πŸ“ƒPaper Behind the One-Way Mirror: A Deep Dive Into the Technology of Corporate Surveillance https://www.cag.edu.tr/uploads/site/lecturer-files/behind-the-one-way-mirror-a-deep-dive-into-the-technology-of-corporate-surveillance-electronic-frontier-foundation-dCqr.pdf Data collection overview Surveillance β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article BUGGER https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/adamcurtis/entries/3662a707-0af9-3149-963f-47bea720b460 Spies aren’t good at their jobs Surveillance β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Catching Or Creating Terrorists? https://www.brandeis.edu/investigate/government-corporate-wrong-doing/catching-or-creating-terrorists.html Manufactured terror Surveillance β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Classroom Management: Simon Sinek, ClassDojo, and the Nostalgia Industry https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/classroom-management-simon-sinek-classdojo-and-the-nostalgia-industry/ Surveillance deployed against schoolkids Surveillance β˜…
πŸ“°Article Data Broker Errors https://www.brennanlaw.com/practice-areas/identity-theft/data-broker-errors/ Data brokers fucking up Surveillance β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Data Brokers Are a Threat to Democracy https://www.wired.com/story/opinion-data-brokers-are-a-threat-to-democracy/ Innacurrate data used evilly Surveillance β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Data Relations https://logicmag.io/distribution/data-relations/ Data production as work and stuff like that Surveillance β˜…
πŸ“ƒPaper Estimating The Prevalence Of Entrapment In Post-9/11 Terrorism Cases https://heinonline.org/hol-cgi-bin/get_pdf.cgi?handle=hein.journals/jclc105&section=24 More sympathetic towards counterterrorism Surveillance β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article How The Lapd And Palantir Use Data To Justify Racist Policing https://theintercept.com/2021/01/30/lapd-palantir-data-driven-policing/ Tech won’t help policing Surveillance β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Inside the Whale: An Interview with an Anonymous Amazonian https://logicmag.io/commons/inside-the-whale-an-interview-with-an-anonymous-amazonian/ Amazon relationships with law/Corporate perspective Surveillance β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Logistics Workers of the World: A Conversation with Agnieszka MrΓ³z of Amazon Workers International https://logicmag.io/care/logistics-workers-of-the-world-a-conversation-with-agnieszka-mroz-of-amazon/ How Amazon workers are surveilled/Worker perspective Surveillance β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Only 1 percent of “terrorists” caught by the FBI are real https://www.salon.com/2013/07/10/only_1_percent_of_terrorists_caught_by_fbi_are_real_partner/ Manufactured terror Surveillance β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“•Book Predict and Surveil https://www.worldcat.org/title/predict-and-surveil-data-discretion-and-the-future-of-policing/oclc/1239321544&referer=brief_results LAPD data use Surveillance β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“ƒPaper Radicalization Theory: An Imminent Threat https://scholar.colorado.edu/concern/undergraduate_honors_theses/9k41zd97f Counterterrorism is harmful busywork Surveillance β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Ring gave LAPD officers free cameras, pushed product promos https://www.latimes.com/business/technology/story/2021-06-17/ring-influencer-marketing-los-angeles-police-department Amazon <3 the police Surveillance β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Safe or Just Surveilled?: Tawana Petty on the Fight Against Facial Recognition Surveillance https://logicmag.io/security/safe-or-just-surveilled-tawana-petty-on-facial-recognition/ Increasing use of facial recogntion Surveillance β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“ƒPaper Separate And Unequal: The Law Of “Domestic” And “International” Terrorism https://search.informit.org/doi/abs/10.3316/agispt.20190828016173 Counterterrorism is harmful busywork Surveillance β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“ƒPaper Social Media Privacy: A Dozen Myths And Facts https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/Delivery.cfm?abstractid=2298891 Weird privacy hot takes Surveillance β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article The data brokers quietly buying and selling your personal information https://www.fastcompany.com/90310803/here-are-the-data-brokers-quietly-buying-and-selling-your-personal-information Overview of data brokers Surveillance β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article The Data Is Ours! https://logicmag.io/scale/the-data-is-ours/ Data vibes overview Surveillance β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article The Informants https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/07/fbi-terrorist-informants/ FBI entrapment Surveillance β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article The Popular Family Safety App Life360 Is Selling Precise Location Data on Its Tens of Millions of Users https://themarkup.org/privacy/2021/12/06/the-popular-family-safety-app-life360-is-selling-precise-location-data-on-its-tens-of-millions-of-user Underhanded data trading Surveillance β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article The secret police: Cops built a shadowy surveillance machine in Minnesota after George Floyd’s murder https://www.technologyreview.com/2022/03/03/1046676/police-surveillance-minnesota-george-floyd/ Recent expansion of surv. tech Surveillance β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“°Article Woke AI Won’t Save Us https://logicmag.io/bodies/woke-ai-wont-save-us/ This stuff doesnt work. Why keep going Surveillance β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“•Book Automation and the Future of Work https://www.worldcat.org/title/automation-and-the-future-of-work/oclc/1316769061&referer=brief_results Stagnant economy vs automation hype Automation β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“•Book Platform Capitalism https://www.worldcat.org/title/platform-capitalism/oclc/1236075764&referer=brief_results Platforms amassing monopoly power Creators β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“ƒPaper This Person (Probably) Exists. Identity Membership Attacks Against GAN Generated Faces https://arxiv.org/abs/2107.06018 Algorithms just show us copies of the past Algorithms β˜…β˜…β˜…
πŸ“ƒPaper Predictive Inequity in Object Detection https://arxiv.org/abs/1902.11097 Object detection racial bias Algorithms β˜…β˜…

Audio Draft

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Shooting Script

The tech platforms are successfully pretending that online advertising works. Which is great for them, financially. But when they actually need to do some advertising, it’s a little embarrassing because there’s nowhere to go. So there’s been a bit of a return to an earlier form of marketing: Public relations.

PROPAGANDA MACHINES

So, just quickly here, there was a guy called Edward Bernays, who invented public relations, because, in his words, he needed a nicer way of saying β€œpropaganda.” Now, maybe he is the inventor of public relations or maybe it’s just because he ran a public relations campaign which made him seem like the inventor of public relations. Either way, a relatively influential guy.

He was a nephew of Sigmund Freud, and he took a lot of inspiration from Freud’s ideas of the subconscious, y’know: that we’re all fundamentally violent irrational beings that must be controlled. So public relations is all about controlling the masses through secret messaging. Mostly, it involves sending press releases to journalists.

And ever since, that’s made up about 40% of all news, right up until recently, when journalism was destroyed by tech, and now it’s about 80%.

But I guess Bernays sort of famously did the campaign to get women smoking Lucky Strike. There were two problems with that 1) the packaging was a really ugly green and 2) women weren’t smoking.

So first, he goes to a doctor, and says β€œwhat are the health benefits of cigarettes,” and the doctor goes, β€œlook, it’s 1928, and I’m a fucking idiot so it’s probably healthier than eating because it keeps you thin.” Bernays goes β€œfantastic, can I get that in writing.” Then he starts promoting the ideal of thinness, and then promotes the cigarettes as something that’ll help you with that.

He also couldn’t change the colour of the packaging, so instead he persuaded designers, tastemakers and charities to make this shade of green β€œcool.”

But his big one was inspired by the psychoanalytic idea that women will actually want cigarettes in their mouth because of… Y’know. Freud. The idea is that it’s actually like an empowerment thing. β€œI reject your penis and substitute my own.”

So he paid activists and models to march smoking cigarettes. Which he took a bunch of photos of and released a bunch of articles about, calling them β€œTorches of Freedom,” and made it out to be this grassroots activism sort of thing.

And that’s what’s come to be known as astroturfing. Astroturfing because it looks like it’s grassroots but it’s fake. That’s not my wordplay, that’s a sociologists wordplay.

And recently that’s become a bit of a buzzword for American journalists complaining about social media. 

Actually, my favourite twitter account of all time was a Russian bot.

It exclusively posted one blurry picture of an older Russian woman, links to articles about Trump, and misspellings of β€œHarrison Ford.” Incredible, next level posting. Blurry picture, Trump article, Hairson Ford. Blurry picture, Trump article, Harasion Ford. Blurry picture, Trump article, Harasion Ford. That’s not a joke I came up with for this, that was an actual thing. But it’s not the sort of thing that’s going to change election outcomes.

Just because bots are an exciting idea, they’re not the biggest problem. But there are much more effective techniques, and the fact that bots like that are even being tried, is indicative of a much larger presence of manipulation online.

Now, one of the descendants of Edward Bernays is a man– called Mark Randolph, and he founded Netflix. The first DVD mail service. Instead of going to a video store to get your DVD’s, you order them online, but then you still had to go and post them back, so it’s not…  It’s a stupid idea. But they were able to beat out the video stores because they were willing to take on massive losses.

And before they launched Mark Randolph hired Corey Bridges to do something that they called β€œblack ops.” Where he would infiltrate DVD forums, ingratiate himself with the community over the course of months, and then go β€œHey, have you guys heard of this new service Netflix, I love this new service Netflix.” And that’s how Netflix got their first 1000 subscribers. By lying to people.

And this was insanely effective, the effective thing about it wasn’t convincing individual people to buy Netflix, it was using the communication power of the internet to exploit network effects: You convince a few people to do your marketing for you, and then they convince a few people and so on and so on. 

Like Nutella, right? Y’know, Nutella is one of the worst inventions of all time: Worse chocolate that’s less healthy than chocolate. Obviously they got away with it in the 60’s because people used to be idiots, but you wouldn’t expect them to get away with it now. Except, at the start of the 2010’s they were one of the first brands to have a robust social media presence. So now all the TikTokers and Instagramers do their marketing for them.

Netflix did really well at encouraging social media engagement in the early days, so they’ve got sort of a footing.

Any sort of organic campaign, transmedia narrative, encourages engagement and transforms fans into brand ambassadors. Or β€œstans.”

The stan accounts are interesting to me because they openly engage in the manipulation of social media. Proudly falsifying social movements, inflating streaming numbers, manipulating algorithms, to promote a thing they like. I’ve found that almost every time Taylor Swift’s entered the Twitter trending topics over the past few years, it was organised and orchestrated by Taylor Swift fans. Grassroots astroturfing.

[explain how?]

A stan account of particular interest to me was nasmaraj, he was a Nicki Minaj fan, and tweetdecker. Which is basically a type of guy who would dig up old viral posts and repost them verbatim, then use the platform tweetdeck to immediately give those posts outsized engagement, which would force them into people’s feeds. Now he was trying to turn this into a career when Cowboy memes started trending so he quickly whipped up a meme song called Old Town Road. And then used his network to promote this across social media.

You can go back and find Reddit posts of him impersonating Redditors going, β€œhey what’s the name of the song that goes take my horse to the Old Town Road,” and it all has obviously manipulated upvote ratios, and likes. And through this aggressive push, he was able to develop this song into a bonafide TikTok meme. And then through chart manipulation and continual re-releases it became an actual hit.

And I mean, I don’t. I’m not saying that that’s bad or anything. I think there’s something genuinely aspirational that one person, alone, working day-in-day-out to manipulate social media, could actually have that big of an effect.

The only problem is that it seems to be an approach that’s been adopted across the music industry. But there’s no way to actually say who’s doing this manipulation, or how they did it or why. No one’s gonna tell you that. The interesting thing about Lil Nas X, is the second he got an actual PR team, they spent years successfully sweeping his social media manipulation under the rug, even though most of it’s still online and hundreds of thousands of people had actually seen it happen.

People have talked about Netflix manipulating social media for years. It is weird that β€œNetflix and Chill” suddenly changed meaning on the 6th of October 2014, without any inciting meme or popular post, just everyone collectively decided to start using it in an entirely new way. 

And people noticed that the viral memes around Netflix releases were coming from accounts with no followers, so people theorised about bots, or sockpuppets. But then people got in touch with some of those accounts and a lot of them were actually real people. And ever since then, that has been a trend that we see with the Netflix and Disney releases: small, new accounts with viral tweets.

I also noticed this. So when Bird Box came out, I was running analysis on the tweets. Remember that? Bird Box? The biggest movie of all time? No? Ok.

The Bird Box campaign began with a lot of physical advertising. Billboards, posters, installations, a travelling escape room, a theatrical pre-release. And that’s all they need to do, they don’t need to spend on programmatic advertising, they can do this sort of bullshit, and then fans will do their social media for them. The only demographic they did spend on was boomer Facebook. Because they’re the only people still falling for that sort of shit.

They also spent on influencer marketing, they worked with some Twitch channels to do β€œthe Bird Box challenge,” which was where you had to play a game blindfolded. They worked with popular influencer Birbs Rights Activist, to make some tweets and videos. And they bought a hashflag, which is that little emoji beside a hashtag. When those came out they were $1 million a piece, nowadays you get a few bundled in with every 400k quarterly ad spend. Anyway, the point is, big marketing campaign, but a lot of that money going in bizarre directions.

Then it’s released, and immediately it starts trending on Twitter and does so for several days, but with different keywords, regularly cycling out: hashtag birdbox, bird space box, hashtag birdbox netflix, birdbox space netflix… Which is interesting, because it’s difficult for something to stay in the trends, trends are looking at what’s increasing in volume. So it’d be much easier to keep something trending, if you could convince people to change what keywords they were using about every 6 hours.

Particularly egregious is when #BirbBox starts trending. For seemingly no reason. No one was tweeting it, and now it is trending, most people talking about it are saying, β€œwhy is this trending it’s a typo.”

Now, Netflix had used that hashtag before Bird Box came out, for their collaboration with Birbs Rights Activist. But now, a week later, with like 60 tweets from all time using that hashtag, it’s trending.

Now there’s a quirk in the trending algorithm, it counts tweets as they come in. It doesn’t account for deleted tweets. So using bots or compromised accounts, you make thousands of tweets and immediately delete them, and it will count those towards a trending topic. This is actually incredibly common, it happens 30-40 times a day. And in the few minutes before #BirbBox enters trending, we do see tens of thousands of tweets being made and immediately deleted.

[jokey disclaimer]

You also have 9,000 people posting the exact same meme with the exact same typo. And yet, run those accounts through a bot-checking tool and none of them show up as bots.

[no one talks about the show on any other social media until after the memes kick off]

[jokey disclaimer]

[i did data collection of the tweets at the time]

Then there’s these tiny accounts with the viral memes. Also seemingly not automated. But what I saw at the time was that tweets, from small accounts, about Bird Box, were getting their likes inflated.

The recommendation algorithm takes into account how much engagement you’re getting versus your account average. So if you’re a 10 follower account getting 0-1 likes per post. A targeted attack to give you 12 likes will disproportionately push that post into people’s feeds. So just with a few likes, you can have an outsized effect on what’s being shoved into people’s faces.

And these likes were coming from the same few people, with multiple alts operating in a network, like the tweetdeckers.

Now I wanted to check in with these accounts, 5 years later, follow up with them, actually ask them some questions, β€œWhat was all of that liking Netflix tweets about?” But they’re all suspended now, obviously. So, we can’t know why this happened, maybe it was just the Sara Paulson stan accounts, who were rabid at the time.

[segue]

Now at the end of this first week Netflix comes out and says that 45 million accounts have watched Bird Box in its first week, or at least watched 70% of it. And that’s just accounts right, so if 4 people watched it twice, that only gets counted once. Which, people have pointed out if you convert that to Box Office that would be at least in the top 5 openings of 2019, sort of the equivalent of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, easily beating out Captain Marvel or Joker, franchises like Mission Impossible or Fast and Furious, and out-performing A Quiet Place 5 to 1.

But it’s maybe possible, there wasn’t really any good third-party tracking at the time.

But now we do have much better stats, so we can look at something like Army of the Dead which Netflix says was watched by 75 million accounts in its first 4 weeks. Nielsen says it was 2 billion minutes domestically, which would be about 36 million views total. I think a good little check to do on any number that Netflix releases is ask “Have they just doubled it?”

These days they count a β€œview” as being 2 minutes watched. Still, it feels very improbable to me, that the majority of people would watch a movie for 2-10 minutes then give up. But to be fair, it is a Zack Snyder movie.

At the very least, they’ve found a creative way of counting. But whenever they release these numbers it creates a big news story, and it creates the movie’s success. The biggest day for Bird Box on Twitter, on Google Trends, on IMDb, on Metacritic, on Letterboxd was the day after they said that it had 45 million views. They told people it was successful and then it became successful.

Now another week passes and they put out another tweet warning people not to do the Bird Box challenge. Again, big news story, big day for Bird Box in the trends. But– no one had actually been doing the Bird Box challenge. There were a couple of videos that were basically unnoticed, and there was their own promotion that they paid for. The Twitch streamers.

Of course as soon as they say not to do it, y’know Logan Paul’s out there blindfolding himself and running over pedestrians, but it didn’t exist before then.

[I dont have all the answers I dont even have all the questions.]

[It’s widespread now]

Now, this does all paint quite a bleak picture. That you could manipulate the masses from the shadows, just with targeted attacks on social media. But interestingly, I saw a similar behavior on the day Tiger King came out. And Tiger King wasn’t a success until weeks later.

So I think it tells us that yes, you can put things in front of people. You can force people to see things on social media, but you can’t make them like it.

So yeah, the technology is there for Russian bots to make you see tweets about Donald Trump, but it’s not going to change anyone’s beliefs. Cambridge Analytica were doing campaigns to make people feel like voting less, which is a scary idea, but their own metrics show that they were entirely unsuccessful.

Recently in psychology, it turns out a lot of foundational studies into the subconscious, and priming, the idea that you could change the way people act, just using words and symbols, cannot be replicated. Obviously you can manipulate people, by talking to them. But the fundamentals of this mass-scale Bernays-style subconscious manipulation, doesn’t seem to work at all.

The fundamentals of advertising still work, putting something in front of someone over and over again makes them think of that thing more often than if you hadn’t done that. Obviously that works, but the rest is a grey area.

When Edward Bernays hired activists to smoke, it had an outsized effect on Lucky Strike sales. Now he thought that this was because of the subconscious associations with oral fixation and that women everywhere were being subconsciously manipulated into smoking.

But, his campaign to promote the ideal of thinness didn’t seem to help sales, and despite his campaign to make the color green cool, Lucky Strike had to change the colour of their packaging not long after.

Maybe the β€œTorches of Freedom” appealed to people who already liked smoking and women’s rights. He wasn’t luring people with their subconscious desire for empowerment and penises, he was unknowingly converting cigarette fans into stans.

So yes, there’s manipulation, more than ever we are surrounded by media manipulation. But mostly, it’s algorithms manipulating algorithms, and we seem to be stronger than we think.